HC Deb 04 December 1941 vol 376 cc1231-3
8. Mr. Gordon Macdonald

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is able to make a statement regarding the wages paid to workers engaged in war production; and in how many cases have such wages been excessive, having regard to the number of hours worked?

Mr. Bevin

It is the policy of the Government to rely upon the joint voluntary machinery for wage negotiations for the adjustment of wages and conditions and that machinery has operated successfully. As regards the second part of the Question, I consider that what matters is not so much the amount of the wages paid as whether it represents a satisfactory standard of output.

Mr. Macdonald

Will the Minister keep in mind the fact that rather exaggerated statements have been made in the House and in the country which are prejudicial to the war effort?

9. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the public concern about this matter, he will give some information about the present earnings of juveniles under 18 years of age?

Mr. Bevin

My Department made an inquiry in July, 1941, to obtain particulars of average weekly earnings of workpeople in the principal industries, including youths and juveniles. The general results of the inquiry are published in the November issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette."

Mr. Lipson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that average figures do not tell the whole story? Can he say whether the comparatively small earnings of apprentices are included in those average figures? Will he take powers to control wages of juveniles above a reasonable amount?

Mr. Bevin

I must have notice of the second part of the Question. In regard to the first part, apprentices are included in "youths and juveniles."

Mr. Rhys Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the largest number of juveniles for any single industry is in the distributive trades; and that they are not too well paid at any time?

Sir Percy Harris

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the allegations made in the "Times" newspaper by responsible people? Will he kindly inquire into them, and, if necessary, write to the people who made those statements?

Mr. Bevin

I am perfectly aware that in certain limited spheres, such as building and civil engineering, excessive payments have, in some cases, been made.

Mr. S. O. Davies

For excessive hours, invariably.

Mr. Bevin

Perhaps my hon. Friend will let me answer the Question. When I found that this trouble had arisen, I immediately took the matter up with my Noble Friend the Minister of Works and Buildings and with the industry, and the industry has now established a proper scale for youths. The trouble in that section of the trade where it arose has now been corrected.

Mr. George Griffiths

If a lad of 18 years of age is put on piece work and he turns out the stuff, is he not entitled to the wages he earns, just as much as anyone above that age?

Mr. Bevin

This question cannot be debated now, but I think I am entitled to say that I cannot be expected to remedy in the middle of a war such a state of things, which went on before the war.

Mr. Lipson

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.

13. Mr. Pearson

asked the Minister of Labour what new joint voluntary machinery for the regulation of wages and working conditions or for the consideration of differences and disputes has been established in industry since the war began?

Mr. Bevin

Since the war began, and particularly in the last year, there has been a considerable growth of joint voluntary machinery, both on a national and on a district or sectional basis. Negotiations are also proceeding in a number of industries for the establishment or extension of such machinery. In view of the large number of trades and industries concerned, I will, if I may, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of those in which this new joint machinery has been established or is under consideration.